By M. Goncalves
“With the second pick in the 2006 NBA draft the Chicago Bulls select… Lamarcus Aldridge, from the University of Texas”. The Bulls had selected Lamarcus Aldridge, a player full of potential but foolishly traded him to the Portland Trailblazers, in exchange the Bulls received, two players that wouldn’t ever get remotely close to Aldridge’s production level: Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. The Blazers had just acquired a young power forward that many teams only dreamed of having. After finishing 21-62 the Blazers needed a savior, luckily for them they had just acquired a future star in Aldridge. He was just coming off his second year at Texas and had averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds per game, signalizing he would be one of the best in the game if he were developed properly. In his rookie season with the Blazers, Aldridge averaged a solid 9 points and 5 rebounds per game, enough to get him all rookie first team honors. His first season showed that his future was looking bright, and it was bright indeed.
Lamarcus spent his first 9 seasons with the Blazers and was an All star in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. He was proving to live up to his extremely high expectations and had already led the Blazers into the playoffs numerous times. In the summer of 2015, the star big man signed with the San Antonio Spurs on a four year 80-million-dollar deal. Aldridge would continue his stellar play in San Antonio and was named an all star in 2018 and 2019, while continuing what he had done in Portland and leading the Spurs to the playoffs several times. Aldridge was without a doubt living up to the high expectations that were set when he was drafted, his lethal mid-range shot from the left post was a move little to no teams had an answer to. Following a loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, the Spurs had a big decision ahead of them, Aldridge was now a free agent and, in the years, to come his production would start to decline, everyone wondered whether the Spurs should re-sign him, and if they did, for how much money? A couple days into the beginning of free agency, the Spurs came to an agreement with Aldridge on a contract that each thought was mutually beneficial, Lamarcus chose to stay with the Spurs on a 3 year 72-million-dollar deal.
This would turnout to be a mistake for San Antonio, as in the following season it was clear the big man’s age was starting to catch up with him, he was already averaging 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, compared to his 21.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in the past season. This caused the Spurs unprecedented record of a 23-year playoff streak to come to an end. At this point in his career, Aldridge was a shell of his former self, he could occasionally put-up all-star type numbers but never consistently. At the start of the current 2020-21 season, it became even clearer he was way past his prime, during his time with the Spurs this season he averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, the latter being a career low. Aldridge was now considered to be on one of the worst contracts in the league, until about a month before the trade deadline, he and the Spurs decided to part ways.
If San Antonio couldn’t find a trade partner to take on his hefty contract they would agree on a buyout. That was exactly what happened. Now a free agent, multiple contenders were looking to add Aldridge’s leadership and experience to their squad. Eventually, the Brooklyn Nets, a team with three of the most talented players in the league, signed Aldridge. It was looking like a very solid pickup for them. Lamarcus provided just over double digits in scoring and about 5 rebounds, the difference between the Nets and the Spurs was that he didn’t need to be the main player in Brooklyn.
The Nets were content with what Aldridge was providing, however that was soon to come to an end. Lamarcus sat out the game against the Philadelphia 76ers because of an illness, that turned out not to be Covid-19. The following night, Aldridge put out a statement that he was retiring. This statement shocked the basketball world. A couple nights before, during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Aldridge mentioned he experienced an irregular heartbeat. He was later diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, which caused him to have an accelerated heartbeat. It saddens many to see Aldridge retire so suddenly, but as Aldridge wrote in his statement, “I’ve put basketball first for years, now it is time to put my family and health first.” For many years, Lamarcus was one of the best players in the NBA, who revolutionized the game for big men looking to expand their shooting range, a former teammate of his, Damian Lillard, said the Trailblazers needed to retire Aldridge´s jersey number, so no one ever will wear the number 12 for the Blazers.
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